On the heels of the digital revolution, the new era of digitally-empowered utilities has officially arrived. It’s predicted that the number of smart meters will grow to more than 1.2 billion by the end of 2024, and investments in smart grid technology are expected to rise to $13.8 billion in the US by 2024. As the utility industry adopts new edge technologies (such as AI, blockchain, the Internet of Things and computer perception) at an increasingly rapid pace, it’s created a massive evolution in customer need and behaviors, and ultimately opened doors for entirely new business models.
Blockchain For Energy Trading
Though decentralized blockchain technology first became a household name with the rise of cryptocurrency, it stands to change how utilities and their customers produce and consume power. The earliest stages of this trend can be seen in an experiment currently taking place in Brooklyn, New York. The Brooklyn Microgrid, a blockchain-powered community electricity grid, is connecting home solar energy producers to a smartphone trading platform that allows neighbors to buy and sell power. Customers can then choose whether they utilize energy from the utility or from solar power, increasing competition and providing access to sustainable energy. The company works in partnership with the local utility, Con Edison, to maintain and support the grid.
Smart Meters for Water
Smart meters have already been deployed by electric utilities in 70 percent of U.S. households. At the same time, 400 million smart water meters are projected to be installed globally by 2026, due to the mounting pressures of water conservation and combating climate change. The potential ability to change how water utilities operate is substantial—it can be used not only for billing but to also identify leaks and increase efficiency and resiliency of water delivery systems.
“It is vital for water utilities to be able to extract the most useful data from the smart water meters, as this is what ensures the meters reduce water wastage from leakages and water classified as non-revenue water,” says Harriet Sumnall, Research Analyst at ABI Research.
Fiber-Powered Energy Grids
A 2018 report suggests that investments in fiber optic cables, commonly known today for providing internet access, would have benefits for electric utilities as they roll out smart grid technology. Just as fiber enables better internet connectivity for residential customers, it can also enable more efficient connections between smart equipment, meters, the cloud and other devices utilized in smart grids. Canadian startup Hyperion is developing a fiber solution in partnership with Missouri University of Science and Technology that detects the temperature of powerlines and transformers. Powered by the Internet of Things, the technology enables energy utilities to better track delivery and maintenance needs, and therefore increase reliability.
As groundbreaking technologies are adopted by utilities, new applications and advances are being developed. Utilities must stay at the forefront of these changes to better serve customers and evolve to meet industry trends.
EVP, Enterprise Solutions